Thursday, December 24, 2009

How early Boylston Chess Club?

While thumbing through the Boyslton Chess Club Library, I started to wonder how early I could find a reference to our esteemed club. We know that it was formally founded on August 27, 1919, and that the Young Men's Christian Union, our original home, had chess playing in the late 1800's. But could I find the actual references in print, especially to the days when it was still informal?

With the Google Book Library Project, it becomes very easy to search old books for small mentions. Here is what I've found so far, going backwards. With Google Books, this research only took a few hours.

First, I'll start with a neat article (I can send the full article to interested parties) about a young Sammy Reshevsky kicking the collective Boston butt in 1922, just 3 years after our club's founding.

This was hosted by an older chess club, the defunct Boston Chess Club, but the Boylston Chess Club had serveral representatives listed, including C.B. Snow, who is mentioned as "a vertern player, who was the local champion over forty years ago and who had defeated Steinitz twice in similar events...." He lost, but Jacobs of the Boston Club actually checkmated Sammy over the board, noted as the first mate in over 400 exhibition games in America!This article is significant, as it is the earliest mention of an EVENT that features players specifically from the Boylston Chess Club that I could find. Can anyone get earlier?

Moving backward in time, I've found the article in the American Chess Bulletin, 1919, discussing the first founding meeting of the Boylston Chess Club, which must certainly be one of the earliest use of the official club name in print.

So that is probably how early we can officially go. But chess was played in the Boylston Chess Club space in the YMCU on Boyslton Street for many years before the founding of the club. How early can we go?

YMCU on Boylston photo-1911
First, in 1911, is a reference in the YMCU yearly report, is this image of the chess players:

Is this the nascent Bolyston Chess Club, meeting for some casual games, or even a tourament?

Going back even further, I can find several references to the Chess Room at the YMCU, while not an official club, certainly was the starting point of our club. These include a 1898 reference to the Chess Room. However, the earliest I can get a reference to chess in the YMCU goes all the way back to the the early days of the YMCU on Bolyston Street in 1869:

What I like about this reference is that chess is not mentioned in the 1867 or 1868 yearbooks, giving me confidence I'm hitting one of the earliest references to the chess of the future Boylston club. Not a spectacular mention, but one that suggests chess was played at the YMCU 50 years before the club was officially founded.

So, with that I turn it over to the club elders, who may have more details about the club's early days. During my library work, I barely touched the old newspaper clippings and other dusty materials that may hold even better information. What I would really like to see are some early cross-tables, perhaps even those from unofficial tournaments BEFORE 1919. That would be pretty cool.

But I also hope that other club members will dive into the great Google Book resource and find even more print references to chess in Boston.

BCC member Philip Nutzman co-discovers SuperEarth!

Astronomer and Boylston Chess Club member Philip Nutzman was part of the Harvard team that recently discovered the exo-planet, GJ1214b, also known as a Super-Earth. The work was published in the premier journal, Nature. Only 40-light years away, this is the first "super-earth" with an observable atmosphere.

You can find a somewhat humorous artist's movie rendition of the planet here.

Size Comparison of GJ1214b to Earth and Neptune

Philip, can we get a cooler name, like Thoron, Cassia, or maybe Bh7!? Anyone have other suggestions for a name for this super-earth?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chess and Holiday Dream Gifts

In the past holidays gifts I have received:
  • a beautiful Staunton set from Levitt and Pierce from my oldest Son Mike, that is my primary practice and tournament set;
  • An Isle of Lewis reproduction set (with the Bob Oresick King) from my wife;

  • and a Red Sox v NY Yankees chess set from my kids still "brand new - never been opened condition".

It would be appropriate to have Bill Lee as one piece and Mickey Rivers as another piece. The Isle of Lewis set is great in demonstrating the feeling of chess as a war game to little kids, because the pieces are very representative of real people fighting.

For this Christmas, if I could dream, I would like to have the following books:

  • "The Hammer of Thor, My most exciting chess games" by GM Larry Christiansen and
  • "Be the Force, Secrets of the Smith-Morra Gambit" by IM Marc Esserman.

I wish everyone Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Hope to see you January 1 at the Herb Healy.

What would your fantasy holiday chess gifts be?
Please Comment. Maybe Santa is watching.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin 12/22/2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Herb Healy Open House, Jan 1, 2010

Please consider coming to the open house, see some old friends, make some new ones, play some chess (rated or unrated), and enjoy a free lunch. It's a great way to start the 2010 chess year.

Registration isn't until 10:45 so you can sleep in from your celebrating the night before.You might even have a chance to play Chess Hall of Famer GM Larry Christiansen or former Mass. Champion and current BCF President IM Dave Vigorito or newly titled IM Marc Esserman.

Friday, January 1st: BCF
Herb Healy Open House

  • 4SS; G/40;
  • 2 sections: Rated and Non-Rated;
  • Entry fee: $25, $20 BCF members if received by 12/30, $5 extra on site.
  • Registration: 10:45 to 11:40.
  • Rounds: 11:45, 1:20, 3:00, 4:40.
  • Free food and drink served all day long to tournament players.
  • Send advance entries to: Herb Healy Open House, 240B Elm St. Suite B9 Somerville, MA 02144


Herbert E. Healy was born on July 13, 1885 and died on Wednesday, January 9, 1974 in Boston. [Thanks to George Mirijanian for providing July 13 as his exact day of birth.]

He was 88 years old and one of the original Charter members of the Boylston Chess Club at its official organization in 1919. He was Secretary Emeritus at his death.

“The Club was saddened by the death of Herbert Healy, Charter Member and Secretary Emeritus, on Wednesday night, January 9, 1974. This occurred only days after the Herbert Healy Appreciation Tournament (the 30-30 New Year’s Event) and Testimony was held in his honor. Wednesday had a 10”-12” snowfall, but Mr. Healy showed up at the Union and peeked into the Chess Quarters. [ He went to his home in the South End on Brookline Ave.] He died in his sleep. (Only Dave Hudnut, in the Providence Rhode Island area, remains as a Charter Club Member.)”

In 1980 the New Year's 30/30 was permanent dedicated to him as Herbert E. Healy Open House. Herbert E. Healy along with Harry Lyman, Irvin Yaffee, Myer Edelstein and others customarily provided food to the participants of this event.

This information was taken from minutes of the club from January 27, 1974 and talking with Mr. Harry Lyman and William Lukowiak in past years. There are more testimonies about Mr. Healy that I am omitting.

Bemardo Iglesias

December 2007

New commenting service, Echo, is now up and running.

The old commenting system was discontinued, so we adopted the Echo upgrade.

The new commenting service is now up -- just click on any comment link on the site. It is actually quite impressive, e.g., you can now include an image in your comment.

Since we are now requiring people to authenticate themselves before they comment, we turned off moderation (we can always turn it back on if necessary). This means there will be no delay in posting your comments and perhaps shorter response times.

To authenticate yourself, use the admin button at the upper right corner of the comment page.
I believe that once you set up and log in, you will be able to comment freely until you logout.

By the way, it appears that we can no longer show recent comments on the sidebar. (Update: Recent comments are now showing up again on the sidebar - DG)

-David, Robert, Jason

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

IM Dave Vigorito won the Harry Lyman Memorial

IM Dave Vigorito won his 3rd Harry Lyman Memorial in the last five years.
In the 15 player Open Section GM Alexlander Ivanov and Vigorito settled on a quick draw, but Ivanov could only draw expert Alan Price with White. Vigorito beat LM Cherniack with Black from a dubious position to win the tournament.

After all, it was the Harry Lyman Memorial, and they share the same birthday, so he may be getting some inspiration from the great chess beyond...

In the U1800 Section (14) Sean Ingham won clear first with 3.5 points. Robert J. King, Bernardo Iglesias, and Jerry Williams all finished with 3.0.

Bernardo also was TD and guarantor of the prize fund.

Previous Lyman Memorial winners have been as follows:
2009 (29 players): IM Dave Vigorito
2008 (16 players): IM Dave Vigorito
2007 (22 players): NM Avraam Pismennyy
2006 (32 players): IM Dave Vigorito and FM Paul MacIntyre
2005 (23 players): FM Charles Riordan and NM Eric Godin

Harry Lyman was the dean of New England chess and the soul of the Boylston Chess Club.

Don't miss his memorial tournament on Saturday with a $400 prize fund (b/30).


1957 Lyman, Harry wins US amateur championship, 6-0, in Ashbury park, NJ.


Saturday, December 19: Harry Lyman Memorial

4SS; G/60. Entry fee: $25, $20 to BCF members. Prizes: $400b/30: 1st $150 2nd $75 Under 1800 1st $100 2nd $75; Registration: 9:15 to 9:55; Rounds: 10:00, 12:40, 3:00, 5:10.

Read more about Harry Lyman by Alex Cherniak at

and by Mike Griffin at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

IM Dave Vigorito attained a rating above 2500.

12/12/2009: IM Vigorito won the Robert James Fischer Memorial tournament at the Boylston.

In doing so, Dave achieved a personal goal of breaking the 2500 rating barrier.

200912128651 2494 => 2501

Congratulations Dave, from all of us.

PS I did want to congratulate you on breaking the 2500 barrier - I knew that was a goal you had and feel like it really is a great accomplishment. I should say I didn't track your progress and it was Paul MacIntyre who drew my attention to your result and suggested the post --you've got many folks rooting for you.


See details about the tournament below, from the wonderful news column George Mirijanian does for MACA.

International master David Vigorito of Somerville added another victory to his long list of tournament triumphs on Saturday, December 12, by posting a perfect score of 4-0 in the Robert James Fischer Memorial tournament at the Boylston Chess Club in Somerville.

Finishing as runner-up with a 3-1 tally was national master Ilya Krasik of Newton, who lost to Vigorito in the third round.

Luke Lung, an 11-year-old player from Boxborough, also posted a perfect 4-0 score to win first place in the Under 1800 section.

Thomas Brinkmann of Somerville, who lost to Lung in second round, ended up in second place with a 3-1 result.

The two-section tournament drew 18 players and was directed by Bernardo Iglesias of Stoughton.

George Mirijanian
Publications Coordinator


Friday, December 11, 2009

BCF annual appeal - please discard the pre-addressed return envelopes you may have received.

Dear chess friends -

I hope you have or were planning to make a contribution to the annual appeal of the BCF, but I need to ask you to discard the pre-addressed return envelopes.

I inadvertently omitted the leading "0" in the zip and the post office computers will bounce it back to you. If you have used your own envelop, delivery should be fine.

I apologize for the error and inconvenience - I have learned to avoid hanging pieces, pretty much, but I still fall victim to the Excel-delete-the-leading-zero trick.

Finally, please help us make sure that our December contribution drive is a success. If you want to see the club continue, please make a generous donation this holiday season. We only exist because of your support.

Send your contributions and renewals to

Boylston Chess Foundation
PO Box 441345,
Somerville, MA 02144

Or, you can also simply bring your donations to the Herb Healy.

We'd love to see you at the Open House on January 1.

Friday, January 1st: BCF Herb Healy Open House 4SS; G/40; 2 sections: Rated and Non-Rated; Entry fee: $25, $20 BCF members if received by 12/30, $5 extra on site. Registration: 10:45 to 11:40. Rounds: 11:45, 1:20, 3:00, 4:40. Free food and drink served all day long to tournament players. Send advance entries to: Herb Healy Open House, 240B Elm St. Suite B9, Somerville, MA 02144

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chess and the Smith-Morra Gambit , according to IM Marc Esserman

Boston has always been the epicenter for swashbucklers of chess, beginning with Harry Nelson Pillsbury, to Weaver Adams, to Harry Lyman, to John Curdo, to GM Larry Christiansen, and now the chess gods insured that Marc Esserman move to Boston from Florida.

For the above mentioned, initiative is the most important asset in the game of chess -- these are players who put force above materiality.On December 8th Marc Esserman presented his views about the Smith-Morra Gambit in a lecture during an entertaining few hours about the fun one can have for the investment of one pawn.

The Smith-Morra is and has been a controversial opening over the past 50 years - being very popular with Boston players - and various claimed antidotes have been put forward.

Harry Lyman influenced many BCF players to use it against the Sicilian, including yours truly.

Then a man named Tim Taylor in the early 90's published a book that took some of the appeal out of the opening. Theory being ever-changing, Esserman and others have taken a real serious look at the Smith Morra. Marc computer beating on all known lines and games goes into a game with the confidence he has seen all that has been. With such preparation, and Marc being so gifted with great tactical skills, generates this confidence to use the Smith Morra against all comers. Last night Marc via games reviewed major attempts to debunk the Smith-Morra, showing in great detail how to deal with the Chicago and Siberian defenses. Most of his audience, a dozen, were people who play the white side of the SM, not defenders against the SM. Marc joked that he didn't want the lecture taped during the night as he divulged lines, facts, and concepts never published.

Esserman warned us not to be as dogmatic as originator Ken Smith, noting to be careful and not blindly make automatic moves like Qe2 without looking out. Esserman emphasized that white has to act quickly in not letting black consolidate easily without being "messed up" a bit for the pawn. Marc also stated you should take a lot more time in analysis than you might normally take because of the complexities but joked to not go too crazy in sacrificing too much. Then he showed an outrageous game where he quickly sacrificed a knight along with a pawn to win. He pointed out you should play against black's queen and leverage that pressure to impede Black's development and coordination.

The Smith-Morra, in Esserman's hands, presents positions that play to his strengths: early centralized queen placement, cryptic but brutal knight moves, in combination with bishops flying away from self interference with rooks are some Esserman's tactical common themes.

Bishops to h7 and a7 imbedded behind enemy pawns, and forcing enemy rooks to self smother their kings also abounded -- being Esserman signature strategies.

Overall a very well planned and presented lecture. At the end of the evening Marc took on all comers with a simultaneous.

Five players faced Marc -- some of us played/lost two games. I had to leave to early, but at that time Marc was undefeated.

I hope someday to see the book -- once Marc feels he has squeezed as many points as he can from the opening.

Is the Smith Morra a good opening for white?

Please Comment

Thank You Mike Griffin 12/09/2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lawyer Times – Alex Cherniack, BCC 2009 Championship

Every year I play in the Boylston Chess Club Championship, I get beat up black and blue. My game with Lawyer Times in round 7 was no exception – even my lone draw in the Championship was painful! Lawyer and I have been butting heads since high school, and our personal score never hovers much beyond 50%.

Lawyer Times - Alex Cherniack [B00]
BCC Championship (7), 26.10.2009

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 b6 4.Bd3 Bb7 5.Nbd2 c5 6.c3 Be7 7.e4 d6 8.Qe2 Nc6 9.a3 Qc7 10.0-0 e5 11.b4 0-0 12.d5 Nb8 13.b5 Nbd7 14.c4 g6 15.Ne1 Nh5 16.g3 Bg5 17.Ng2 Rae8 18.f4 exf4 19.gxf4 Bf6 20.Ra2 Bd4+ 21.Kh1 f5 22.Qd1 fxe4 23.Nxe4 Ng7 24.Ng5 Bc8 25.Nh4 Nf6 26.f5 gxf5 27.Bxf5 Bxf5 28.Nxf5 Nxf5 29.Rxf5 Qd7 30.Ne6 Rxe6

My last move of the first time control, and I had no choice but to sacrifice the exchange – otherwise Lawyer’s Knight on e6 would have been too strong.

31.dxe6 Qxe6

White has the advantage, but it is tough to convert. The board is slippery, neither side has trustworthy footholds for their pieces, the Kings are wide open, and none of the moves are easy. The rest of the game was played during the secondary time control of G/45. Lawyer had an extra twenty minutes going in, and during the next couple of moves I spotted him an additional half an hour.

32.Qf1 Re8 33.Rg2+ Kf7

The alternative was 33…Kh8, and Rybka likes it better because of the trick 34.Bh6? Qxf5 35.Bg7+ Kg8 36.Bxf6+ Kf7 37.Rg7+ Ke6. However I didn’t like the prospect of back rank mates.

34.Rfg5 Qe4?!

Stingier and more stubborn is 34...Re7, not allowing White’s Rook a crack on the seventh rank. If 35.Rg7+ Ke8 36.Rxe7+ Ke7 37.Rg7+ Ke8 the Rook has no time to take the a-pawn because of 38.Rxa7? Qe4+.

35.Rg7+ Ke6 36.Qe2


Much better was 36…d5! maximizing the central power of my pieces. After 37.cxd5+ Kxd5 38.Qa2+ c4 Black’s King is perfectly safe. And if 37.Qxe4+ Nxe4 38.cxd5+ Kxd5 Black’s forces are so well placed that I don’t believe White has a win.

37.Rxe2+ Be5 38.Rxa7 Nd7 39.a4?!

At this point I had fifteen minutes to finish the game, while Lawyer still had close to an hour. Had he played 39.Bf4 I would have been forced to resign in a few moves because something has to give with the overloaded Knight on d7: 39..Rg8 (39…Nf6 40.Bxe5 dxe5 41.Ra6 Nd7 42.a4; 39…h5 40.a4) 40.Bxe5 Nxe5 41.Rxh7 Rg4 42.Rb7 Rxc4 43.Rxb6 and 44.Ra6.

39...Rf8 40.Bb2 Rf4 41.Bxe5 Nxe5


Consistent, but one-sided. 42.Rxh7 Rxc4 43.Rh6+ Kd7 44.Ra2 maintains passed pawns on both sides of the board, with excellent winning chances for White.

42…bxa5 43.b6 Rxc4 44.Rb2 Rb4 45.Rxb4 axb4 46.Rc7 Nd7 47.b7 Nb8 48.Rc8


Forced, as both 48…Na6 49.Ra8 and 48…Nd7 49.Rd8 lose on the spot.

49.Rxb8 Kc7 50.Rd8 Kxb7 51.Rxd6


Seven minutes left on the clock, and this impulsive move kicking the Rook should have cost me the game.

I thought that 51...b3 52.Rd1 c4 53.Rb1 Kc6 54.Kg2 Kc5 55.Kf1 Kb4 was an easy win for me during the game and the post-mortem. Upon closer analysis it turns out that White has a draw with exact play: 56.Ke2

56…Kc3 (not 56...c3 57.Kd3 c2 58.Re1 Ka3 59.Kc3 Ka2 60.Rh1+-) 57.Rc1+ Kb4 58.Kd2 b2 59.Re1 Kb3 60.Re3+ Ka2 61.Re5 b1Q 62.Ra5+ Kb2 63.Rb5+ Ka2 64.Rxb1 Kxb1 65.Kc3=.

Fortunately Lawyer played quickly to flag me into making an outright blunder (as Denys Schmelov did successfully in Round 2), and made some less than optimal moves on his own.

52.Rf6 b3 53.Rf3 c4 54.Rc3

This is why 51…Kc7 was such a dumb move. I have no time for 54…b2 because the c-pawn goes with check.

54…Kb6 55.Rxc4 Kb5


Even simpler is 56.Rc7 h6 57.Rc1 forcing the advance of my h pawn up one square. The pawn race then becomes a no-contest.

56...Kb4 57.Kg2 b2 58.Rf1 Kb3 59.Kg3 Ka2 60.Kg4 b1Q 61.Rxb1 Kxb1


Sorry Lawyer, but if you’re reading this you should be kicking yourself, hard. 62.Kh5 Kc2 63.Kh6 Kd3 64.Kxh7 Ke4 65.Kg6 shoulders Black’s King away and wins. To be fair, I didn’t see this either. With less than three minutes left, I was racing the King back to h8 with my fingers crossed. And nobody saw this during the post-mortem, even with Charles Riordan and Carey Theil looking on. However you still had twenty minutes on the clock!

62… Kc2 63.Kg5 Kd3 64.h5 Ke4 65.Kf6 h6

Now I get a thoroughly undeserved draw by a mere tempo.

66.Kg6 Ke5 67.Kxh6 Kf6 68.Kh7 Kf7 69.h6 Kf8 70.Kg6 Kg8 71.h7+ ½-½

God, I hate sudden death time controls!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chess and San Francisco Part Deux

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving Boston chess fans! My wife and I flew out to the California Bay area to visit my two boys for the second annual California Thanksgiving celebration along with visiting with my new grandchild Abigail Frances Griffin (born 10/08/2009).

Friday November 20th my wife an I decided to take the Bart from Berkeley into San Francisco to do a little sight seeing and Christmas shopping. We arrived at Market and Powell and discovered that the cable car ride to the waterfront was temporarily out of service.

My wife had to get something at the Radio Shack and I was mesmerized by the activities of several guys setting up tables and chairs out of the back of a City of San Francisco pickup truck at the chess location known as The Slab.

As each pair of chairs were placed under the table it was immediately occupied by chess players. A player approached me and asked if I wanted to play. I asked what the deal was and he said that typically the play for a small wager.

Because of my experience at other park places I suspected that any player willing approach randomly to play for money typically is expert to master strength at least at speed chess pace so I suggested a dollar per game to the winner. Probably because of that old business superstition not to turn down the first transaction of the day; my opponent agreed.

I introduced myself: Mike Griffin and asked my opponent's name to which he answered John. When I asked for a last name John hesitated, eyes searched beyond me before he came up with "Powell". As there were maybe dozen signs with Powell around us and given the hesitation my eight year teacher experience down justed this man's credibility rating. My wife came by and said she was going to do a little shopping and for me to take my time.

Game one, me having black, was an uncommon Dutch Classical and I got my f & e pawns moving on his king position for the win. I've beaten experts with this so maybe I got lucky.

Game two: a center counter with me having white. I used a flakey Nc3, Bc4, d3 setup to play against black's white squared bishop and focus for sacrifices on e6. Surprisingly I won that one as well?! Wondering if I was being set up for higher stakes, as I got a being sandbagged sense when a couple of moves by opponent were not good. So I stepped away and felt ok about being up +$2.00.

Now having to find my wife. When I did catch up with her I found out that my wife had begun Christmas Shopping and I was in fact down -$148?

! What are some of your park chess playing experiences?

Please Comment

Thank You

Mike Griffin


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IM Marc Esserman Master Lecture on the Smith Morra Gambit

Boylston Chess Foundation

Master Lecture Series

IM Marc Esserman

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 7:00 PM

“My Best Games in the Smith-Morra Gambit”

Lecture: 7:00 pm

Entry fee: free for BCF members
$10 for non-members

If there is sufficient interest, IM Esserman will play a Smith Morra thematic simul –EF $5 for all.

Marc is an experienced chess teacher based in Somerville, MA, a member of the board of the Boylston Chess Foundation, and a recognized expert on the Smith-Morra Gambit. (See the October NYT’s article about one of Marc’s Smith Morra games by Dylan Loeb McLain reprinted below.) Recent achievements include:
  • 1st place in 2009 Eastern Class
  • 2nd place 2008 Continental Open Miami
  • 2008 Miami Open - tied 2-7

Club phone: 617-629-3933
BCF Blog:


An Often-Shunned Opening, for Good Reason

NYT Published: October 24, 2009

Some openings are perennially popular. Others are rarely used, particularly among elite players, and often for good reason. The unpopular openings can be broken down into three categories.

The Bad: the Grob (1 g4), the Latvian Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5) and the Sokolsky (1 b4) among them. They are risky and give opponents too many opportunities to seize the advantage.

The Ugly: Some openings are neglected not from any intrinsic failing, but because they are simply not faddish. In 1995, when Viswanathan Anand of India, the current world champion, played a title match against Garry Kasparov of Russia, he surprised his opponent with one of the Uglies, the Scandinavian (1 e4 d5). Though he lost the game, he got a good position out of the opening. But he has not played it since.

The Risky: They can offer a benefit because opposing players are often not well versed in their nuances. Usually, these openings are gambits, where a player sacrifices at least a pawn. But opponents who know how to handle them can obtain good positions. The Evans Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4), the Schliemann Defense (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5) and the Smith-Morra Gambit all fall into this category.

Of that group, the Smith-Morra is among the most respectable. By investing a pawn, White obtains a significant initiative. Black can defuse this advantage, but it takes patience.

The dangers of the Smith-Morra were illustrated in a United States Chess League game last month between Marc Esserman (who was awarded the international master title this week) and Tom Bartell, a master.

The Smith-Morra is a response to the Sicilian Defense. It is attractive because it is easy to find good squares for all of White’s pieces.

Bartell should have played his bishop to e6 earlier. By delaying that move with 11 ... Bd7, he wasted time. He created a weakness at b6 by playing 12 ... a6; 12 ... Rc8 would have been better.

He erred with 16 ... Nb8. He should have retreated his knight to a7, though his position is certainly ugly. Bartell’s slow development allowed Esserman to crash through with 17 Ne5.

Playing 19 ... Ne8 was not an option because 20 Bd5 wins Black’s rook.

Bartell would have put up more resistance by playing 20 ... Rd8 21 Rc5 Nbd7, when his pieces are developed. Instead, 20 ... Bf2 was an error, and Esserman pounced, beginning with 22 g4.

After that, it was a massacre, and Bartell resigned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chess State of Mind

It was late Saturday afternoon at the BCF when in walks IM Joe Fang to watch the last 1/2 hour of chess. I turn to IM David Vigoritto and mentioned that by coincidence as I played through a game in an opening book a very theoretical Giuoco Piano of Fang vs Ivanov in New Hampshire.

To which David replies: "Oh yes, I know that game but all that was known at the time that game was played." He described the game in detail, practically cited the page the game was on. All of this from a player that doesn't play either side of a Giuoco!?

I play few 40/2 hr G/60 weekend tournaments anymore as they appear to be on the decline. I miss one interesting phenomenon that happens to those who toil all weekend within a slow time control tournament analyzing for hours at the board: by the last round of the tournament I am so much more lucid when compared to my state of mind when round one began. By late in a tournament, I can glance at a position and just know things that my typical rusty, mushy mind usually doesn't comprehend easily. A really cool experience. Two or three days of 8 to 10 hours per day of slow time control chess does wonders for my chess awareness and judgment. And when combined with the Swiss effect of you meeting players more and more equal to yourself as the tournament goes on, each game usually becomes a tougher and tougher, more fun, battle.

Being a chess weekend warrior, I dream of what it would be like to spend mountains of time with chess every day and have this incredible awareness all the time like IM's.

Folks like David Vigorito have such an all inclusive interest that they study games and openings even if very esoteric to their style, likes, and beliefs.

I would be a better player if I could afford to spend all my hours playing. But then I would need to find a hobby, maybe scrapbooking?!

I wonder what the likes of Larry Christiansen do for fun?

Please Comment

Thank You Mike Griffin


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moves Not Found In Nature

In my last game from the recently concluded Hauptturnier, my opponent Rubén Portugués arrived a little late. I had arrived early enough to select a reasonably well-lit board, position each piece in the center of its square, and point knights facing forward, as is my habit.

As we started our game, Rubén gently pointed out that my king and queen were transposed. That was easily fixed, of course, and then I proceeded to find more normal ways to mess up my position and lose the game.
(Matt -- fortunately, it's difficult to place the board the wrong way at the club!)

Also quite recently, I was playing some time-odds blitz against "The Captain". The relevant features of the position are below, with it being my turn to move:

As White, I played 1...h7xg6 (!) and pressed the clock.

The Captain pushed his clock button back down and protested, "Wait, wait, what just happened?"

I believe I tried to push my clock button back down, but then realized I had gotten "a little ahead of myself" after pondering 1 Bxg6 hxg6 or 1 Nxg6 hxg6.

Subconsciously I must have figured that, since I was breaking the laws of chess anyway by making his move instead of mine, I might as well keep both my minor pieces. :-)

Despite that incident, I rarely play blitz, and even more rarely agree to it against people for whom I consider myself no match. Quite a number of years ago, our club's Fearless Leader, Dave Vigorito, persuaded me, kicking and screaming, to play such a game with him between rounds at some tournament.

Dave played a knight move like the following:

(Or however he moved his knight, it was not an L-shaped legal move.)

With my 20/400 sight of the board (a far cry from Dave's 2400 sight of the board), I had no idea anything strange had occurred. As I sat there pondering my response, he eventually took pity on me and asked, "You're not really going to let me do that, are you?"

According to my recollection, my response was "Do what?"

At the 1988 U.S. Open tournament here in Boston, I played a well-known local expert. I'll call him "Truly Forgotten" because his name sort of rhymes with that, although I suspect he will never be truly forgotten by me (nor perhaps, by many other folks).

I was getting crushed on the board. I was also in time trouble and frazzled, and while it was his turn to move, "Truly" decided to adjust one of his pieces without saying "Adjust" or "J'adoube".

With my aforementioned 20/400 sight of the board, I incorrectly thought he had made a move, so I hurriedly made another one and pressed my (still-down) clock. Can you believe the nerve of this guy? He protested that I had made two moves in a row! ;-)

Even that extra move wouldn't have helped me in that position, and "Truly" duly ground me down. I'm happy to say, though, that I scraped a draw from him two years later.

The October-December 2009 Chess Horizons reveals that local player N.N. is still turning in strong performances. With my squib-tastic eye, it is almost unimaginable that I could be anyone's nemesis, but I am oddly 3-0 against this particular fellow from our early 1990's games. In our first game, after 72 b4 h5 73 b5 h4 74 b6 h3 75 b7 Bc7, we arrived at this position:

A small crowd had been steadily growing around our board for the last several moves. I could tell that N.N. had forgotten something about chess, and I don't quite buy the Chinese saying:
which says that although the players may be confused about what's happening on the board, the spectators remain clear.

The next moves were 76 b8=Q Bxb8, after which N.N. confidently announced:
Stalemate, I can't move.
Unfortunately for him, 77 Kf8 and 77 Kh8 are indeed moves found in nature. I pointed out, "You can move." and he resigned immediately.

Chess is indeed a difficult game!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chess and the BU Open

Chess and the BU Open

It was November 15 1997 and I decided to get back into playing tournament chess. Lifetime boomers have a membership ID beginning with "1001": the USCF offered it to members in the 70's for those who opted to pay twice as much for 10 years in a sustaining membership to convert to Life. So after 19 years away, raising a family, I walked into the Third Annual BU Open.

Bob Oresick and Alan Ong were seated in the basement of the BU student union, paid my entry fee as I showed them my 1590 rating on the label of my Chess Life.

Bob and Allan were more occupied in encouraging players to assist in setting up tables and chairs. So an array of folding tables, folding chairs, and pieces of plywood were crafted by custodians and players assembling the hall. I found myself moving a table with a BU facilities man, Benjamin Theodore, whom I worked with for 11 years previously in a company that had subsequently closed. Benjamin made it a point to work during the BU Open for the next 10 consecutive years in order to say hi to me and make sure things were ok. He retired from BU two years ago.


Few coat racks available, we piled our coats and bags on the side of the room. The fact I was a class C prize winner that day fueled my enthusiasm; and so warmed by the prize money, the 30 degree weather made no impression as I took the T home; not noticing that I forgot my coat.

That day would begin the revitalization of my chess career, become an annual tradition, and begin a friendship with Bob. Subsequent BU Opens have moved upstairs into a glass walled, pre-furnished room, overlooking the Charles River surrounded by the colorful autumnal leaves. When combined with the nearby food court, ton's of space for skittles, each game has their own separate table to play on; the BU Open has evolved to one of the best places to play chess. Another feature is that local students are attracted by a low entry fee and team prizes, So you are not stuck in dealing with the typical cast of characters but have an opportunity to play unknown strangers.

From it's humble beginnings the BU Open has grown into a special day in the chess year.

Thank You Bob Oresick and Alan Ong.

What are some of your experiences at the BU Open?

Please Comment.

Mike Griffin 11/09/2009

New views on the Lewis chessmen

Doubts cast on Chessmen origins

Lewis Chessmen
Calls have been made for the pieces to be returned to Lewis

New research has cast doubt on traditional theories about the historic Lewis Chessmen.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/11/10 10:38:48 GMT


The 93 pieces - currently split between museums in Edinburgh and London - were discovered on Lewis in 1831.

But the research suggests they may have been used in both chess and Hnefatafl - a similar game that was popular in medieval Scandinavia.

It also casts doubt on the traditional theory that the ivory pieces were lost or buried by a merchant.

The research was led by Dr David Caldwell of the National Museum of Scotland, who believes the Lewis chessmen were more likely to have belonged to a high-ranking person who lived on Lewis.

Dr Caldwell told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that many of the pieces could have doubled for Hnefatafl, another conflict game which also pitted a king against pawns or warriors on the other side.

It is much more likely that the horde is in Lewis because it belonged to somebody who lived there rather than being abandoned by a merchant who was passing through
Dr David Caldwell
National Museum of Scotland

The ancient game has not survived into modern times.

For the first time, they also tried to work out which pieces were made by the same groups of craftsmen by measuring the chessmen's faces, looking at their clothing, and studying details of the workmanship.

Dr Caldwell added: "We certainly still believe the pieces are Scandinavian in origin, perhaps made in a workshop by several masters in a city like Trondheim.

"But one of the main things I think we are saying in our research is that it is much more likely that the horde is in Lewis because it belonged to somebody who lived there rather than being abandoned by a merchant who was passing through.

"To take a relatively easy example, there is a praise poem written in the middle of the 13th century to Angus Mor of Isla, and the poem says that he inherited his ivory chess pieces from his father Donald - that makes Angus the very first Macdonald, and the poem also makes him the king of Lewis.

"Now you of course you would be foolish to implicitly believe everything in a praise poem, but nevertheless it gives you some idea that we are dealing with a society in the west of Scotland - great leaders like Angus Mor, bishops, clan chiefs - who really valued playing chess and saw it as being one of their accomplishments."

He said that the analysis tried to recognise the work of different craftsmen, and home in on pieces which may be replacements for ones which had been broken or lost.

They used a forensic anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson based at Dundee University, to do a photogrammetric analysis of the faces as they believed individual craftsmen would have given their faces different characteristics, just like a modern-day political cartoonists.

Plenty of mystery

Dr Caldwell said the chessmen suggested that there was a reasonable amount of wealth in the western Isles in the 13th century, perhaps because the medieval economy placed greater value on fairly barren land that could be used to raise cattle.

He added: "It was certainly leading men there, people who could make a lot of money either by raising cattle or frankly by going raiding - there was still in some ways a Viking way of life surviving into the 13th century."

Despite the extensive research, Dr Caldwell said he still believed there was plenty of mystery surrounding the chessmen.

"I would be very disappointed if we have written the last word on the - what I hope we have done is opened up the debate and shown it is possible, even with something very well known, to discover new things," he said.

The research will be published this week in the journal Medieval Archaeology.

Of the 93 pieces found, 82 are kept at the British Museum, with 11 held by the National Museum of Scotland.

Calls have been made for all of the pieces, which were made from walrus ivory and whales' teeth, to be returned to Lewis.